You're driving home after a long day at work when the driver behind you carelessly crashes into your vehicle. Your car is a total loss, and you're unable to move your right leg, which is broken. Due to your broken leg, you're forced to miss work for several weeks without pay. These unforeseen injuries and their resulting financial burdens can be devastating.
If you have injuries and missed work due to a car accident, you may be able to get compensation for the wages you lost. Read on to find out how to make a lost wages claim.
What Are Lost Wages?
In a car accident case, "lost wages" refers to the money you would have earned from your employer from the accident to the date of settlement or judgment. To get your lost income, you must prove that the injuries that caused you to be out of work were directly related to the accident. You must prove they were unrelated to any other event following the accident.
If they accept your claim, you'll get the wages you would have earned had you not missed work while receiving medical treatment and during recovery.
As you proceed through such a claims process, you'll likely encounter two terms, which are:
- "Lost earning capacity"
- "Lost compensation"
Keep in mind that they refer to two different types of damages. They may be considered separately throughout the claims process.
Lost earning capacity involves any disability that results in a diminished capacity to work.
Lost compensation refers to lost wages and other financial benefits you would have earned if it weren't for the accident. Examples of such other financial benefits could include pay bonuses and other employment perks.
How To Submit a Lost Wages Claim
Typically, you have the following options to recover your lost wages in a car accident case:
- Request your car insurance company, if your policy includes that coverage
- Request the other driver's insurance company, if they are at fault
- File a lawsuit against the other driver
Before submitting a lost wages claim, you should know what's covered under the terms of the insurance policy. The damages you can recover will likely depend on the type of insurance coverage you have, such as:
- Bodily injury coverage: If you got injured in the accident that the other driver caused, you can submit a lost wages claim through that driver's liability bodily injury coverage.
- Uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage: If a driver without insurance caused the accident or exhausted the at-fault party's coverage limits, you can collect lost wages through your own uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.
- Personal injury protection (PIP) coverage: No matter who was at fault for your serious injuries, you can collect lost wages from your insurance company up to the policy limit under PIP coverage.
Keep in mind that plans can differ. It's important to review the details of your plan to determine if it features coverage like the three varieties listed above.
Once you submit a request to the insurance company, it will most likely ask you to:
- Fill out an employment authorization form, which allows your employer to give information about your employment to the insurance company
- Get an independent medical examination
- Submit relevant medical records
When submitting a personal injury claim, ensure you include detailed and accurate statements about your lost wages. The insurance company could deny your lost wages claim if any documents are incomplete or inaccurate.
Read these employment authorization forms carefully. They will grant insurance companies access to your personal employment information.
How To Prove Lost Wages
When you submit your lost wages car accident claim, make sure to attach the following supporting documents as evidence:
- Doctor's note: Before you can take time off from work, you must have sustained actual physical injuries. You will need a doctor's note or disability slip that contains the recommended time to take off from work due to your injuries. This note must contain information about the injury you sustained due to the accident.
- Paystubs or other wage documents: To prove lost wages, you will need your paystubs from before and after the accident. If they are unavailable, you can also submit your W-2s or your tax returns from previous years. If you are self-employed, you can submit your tax return and other relevant documents from last year to prove the money you would have earned during your recovery. Other relevant documents include profit-and-loss statements, invoices, receipts, bank statements, or finance-related correspondence.
- Wage verification letter from your employer: Besides paystubs, you must submit a letter from your employer to confirm important employment details. The letter should contain the days you were absent, your pay level, and the number of hours you work during each pay period.
Medical Bills and Your Car Accident Injuries
Besides lost wages, you may also have significant medical bills due to your car accident injuries. Hospital stays, surgeries, physical therapy, prescription medications, and assistive devices can add to a huge bill. As part of your insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit, you should also seek reimbursement for these medical expenses.
This process will involve providing your medical records and bills as evidence of your injuries and their costs. The insurance adjuster or perhaps a court will then determine the validity of these expenses and decide on an appropriate reimbursement. Keep all your medical records and receipts related to your injuries to substantiate these claims.
Dealing With the At-Fault Driver and Their Insurance Company
To recover compensation for your injuries, you must establish who was at fault for the accident. If the other driver is at fault, you can file a claim against their auto insurance for compensation. But dealing with the at-fault driver's insurance company can be difficult. Insurance adjusters might try to minimize the company's liability by questioning the extent of your injuries or the amount of your lost wages. A personal injury lawyer can:
- Negotiate on your behalf
- Advocate for your interests
- Help you get fair compensation
How Does Workers' Compensation Work in Relation to Car Accidents?
If your car accident happened while you were on the job, you might be eligible for workers' compensation. Workers' compensation is a type of insurance that provides wage replacement and medical benefits to employees injured during employment. But, the rules and benefits can vary depending on the state and the specifics of the accident.
In some states, all businesses must carry workers' compensation insurance. In others, only businesses of a certain size or certain industries must have it. This could affect whether accident victims are eligible to make a claim.
The benefits available can also differ. While all insurance in all states generally covers medical costs and lost wages, they calculate these benefits differently. Some states base the wage benefit on the worker's average/hourly wage. Others use a different formula. Some states also offer more generous benefits for permanent disabilities.
The process for resolving disputes over workers' compensation claims also varies by state. Some have administrative courts specifically for these disputes. Others handle them through a state agency's regular court system or administrative process.
Some states require a waiting period after the injury before wage benefits can be paid, while others do not.
Variations in Workers' Compensation for Car Accidents
The specifics of how car accidents are handled can also vary. If you were injured in a car accident while on the job, your eligibility for workers' compensation could depend on the circumstances of the accident.
If you were performing a task related to your job at the time of the car crash, you're generally covered by workers' compensation. But most states have a "coming and going" rule. This means that injuries sustained while commuting to and from work are not usually covered.
There can be exceptions to this rule, such as:
- If you were running an errand for your employer during your commute
- If you were traveling for work
- If your job requires you to be on the road
Also, if another driver was at fault for the auto accident, you might have the option to sue that driver for more damages beyond what workers' compensation covers.
PTO, Sick Days, Vacation Days, and Their Impact on Your Claim
Paid time off (PTO), sick days, and vacation days might affect your claim for lost wages. If you used these benefits while unable to work due to your injuries, you could include these in your personal injury case. Essentially, you're arguing that the accident forced you to use these benefits early, and you should be compensated for them.
In these situations, your personal injury attorney can tell you how to calculate the value of these days and include them in your claim. You may need to provide documentation such as your employee benefits policy or pay stubs showing the deduction of these days from your account.
Get Legal Advice from a Car Accident Lawyer About Making a Lost Wages Claim
While submitting your recent paystubs can serve as evidence, it may not be enough to collect lost wages. Making a lost wages claim can involve complicated legal issues with your medical condition. To get the compensation you deserve, consult an experienced car accident attorney at a reputable law office near you.